The severing of a woman’s fingertip at King Asia Foods in Doncaster would not have happened if the firm had not modified a hopper guard and adequately communicated procedures for unblocking it.
That was the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) verdict after Doncaster magistrates court fined the Chinese and oriental food manufacturer £5,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £2,506.
The incident occurred on November 9 2010 when Junu Thapa of Flint Road, Doncaster, severed the end of the ring finger on her left hand as she tried to clear a blockage in a packaging machine.
A mobile screw conveyor was being used to fill a packing machine, which was known to become regularly blocked, with powdered ingredients.
HSE found that the fixed guard at the top of the packaging machine hopper had been modified, so that it was only fixed at two corners, rather than four. This allowed the guard to be lifted while the machine was running.
Thapa attempted to clear the blockage while the machine was operating, and her hand slipped, hitting the screw conveyor. She was released from hospital the same day and has since found employment with another firm.
‘Safe system of work’
"This incident would not have been possible had the fixed guard not been modified, and had a safe system of work for clearing blockages been established by King Asia Foods and understood by all employees,” said HSE Inspector Lincoln Marks.
"The risks from screw conveyors are well understood in industry and yet poor controls against those risks continue to be a major cause of serious injury.
"This case highlights the dangers of companies not properly safeguarding their employees, and the importance of robust management systems for the checking of guarding arrangements."